From Julie Picarello
The All Important ToolBox
When it comes to tools, a Chinese proverb states it best…”If the axe is not sharp, it will not matter how hard the wood is”. Our tools play an important and integral part in our work, and we spend time finding (or making) the right ones to help us implement our artistic visions. One of the most important tools of a polymer artist is the clay itself, as different brands will exhibit different properties. Through experimentation, I’ve found that the two I prefer are Premo and Kato Polyclay. Kato is firmer, takes longer to condition, and delivers a crisp, sharp pattern. Premo is softer, easier to condition and imparts a smooth fusion between layers of clay when it is sliced. Premo also offers a range of colors that I find ideal for mixing the soothing, muted tones that I prefer.
Because my technique relies heavily on tools that will pattern or “imprint” the clay, I have a toolbox overflowing with odds and ends. Metal tubes of various shapes and sizes, hors d’oeuvre forks, computer heat sinks, seashells, leather stamps, dental tools…if it has a sharp edge, I’m interested in it! But I don’t overlook the promise of tools with thicker, blunt edges, as they can be combined with sharp-edged tools for great impact. Take apart an everyday pen and you’ll find a wonderful, thick-walled circle perfect for imprinting.
When I can’t seem to find just the right tool for a specific pattern I’m envisioning, I’ll make it myself. One of my favorite tools is quite simple – an aluminum bracelet blank that is bent around a mandrel to form a winding, sinuous path in the clay. The hunt for unusual imprint tools is an enjoyable challenge, and using them will allow you to create completely unique designs.
Metal accents can be embedded, stacked, or riveted to polymer to add a unique look to your work…and there is a wealth of opportunity when it comes to finding sources. Your local hardware store can be searched for washers that may be hammered for texture and domed for shape. Plaster washers look like they’ve been hole-punched all over and lock washers have unique star shapes. Brass and copper washers can be hit with the torch for a color-shifting patina, and all washers can be painted or dabbed with inks for an even bigger color splash.
A scrapbooking store yielded a package of bronze and pewter colored decorative snaps, which are excellent as embedded accents. Hobby stores carry miniature parts that lend themselves to your design. A favorite find was a set of miniature disc brakes, already pierced and with great fluted edges.
You can also find copper, brass, sterling etc. tubing in a wide variety of sizes, which can be curved and used as a decorative bail, cut into connectors, or hammered, textured and used as spines for riveting other components.